Science Observed (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Trained as a physicist, Jeremy Bernstein is widely regarded as the finest science-writer now working. The range of his interests is evident in this collection. Part 1, “Mind and Machine: Profile of Marvin Minsky,” is a three-part profile in The New Yorker. The remaining essays are drawn from various journals, including The American Scholar, The Dial, Geo, and Mountain Gazette; two of the essays are reprinted from an earlier book by Bernstein, A Comprehensible World: On Modern Science and Its Origin (1967). They are divided, apparently according to their degree of seriousness, into part 2, “Science Observed,” and part 3, “Out of My Mind: Entertainments, Serious and Otherwise.” Indeed, considerations of seriousness, humor, and playfulness provide one thread running through the book. Both in the content of some of the essays and in his own style, Bernstein displays the naïve, almost childlike humor and playfulness characteristic of many physicists.
“Topless in Hamburg” (a reference to the fact that the so-called “top” quark had not been discovered) provides a lucid account of developments in the theory of elementary particles following the discovery of the quark by Murray Gell-Mann and, independently, George Zweig, in 1963. The account also includes Bernstein’s shaky hypothesis concerning the etymology of the term “quark” which Gell-Mann took from a line in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake...
(The entire section is 1977 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Choice. XX, October, 1982, p. 288.
Harper’s Magazine. CCLXIV, June, 1982, p. 71.
Library Journal. CVII, February 15, 1982, p. 465.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVII, February 28, 1982, p. 7.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXI, January 1, 1982, p. 40.
Science Books and Films. XVIII, November/December, 1982, p. 68.
Technology Review. LXXXV, October, 1982, p. 84.
(The entire section is 42 words.)